Indonesian domestic workers migrating for employment in Malaysia encounter systematic discrimination, exploitation, and abuse at the hands of labor agents and employers. The governments of Malaysia and Indonesia have neglected their international human rights obligations to prevent these abuses, provide effective remedies, and punish the perpetrators.
The failure of both governments to monitor actively recruitment agencies, training centers in Indonesia, labor suppliers in Malaysia, and places of employment creates an environment where domestic workers are exploited with impunity. Restrictions on domestic workers freedom of movement and freedom of association have particularly severe consequences by heightening their vulnerability to labor rights violations and abuse and by preventing them from accessing information and help. Punitive immigration policies compound the problems that a worker escaping from an abusive situation may face, as she is likely to be detained in an immigration detention center with poor conditions and then be summarily deported, with no access to social or health services or to redress for labor rights violations.
Regional labor migration is a pervasive phenomenon in Asia, one that benefits the economies of both sending and destination countries. Economic migrants are increasingly women, and are often concentrated in sectors such as domestic work, which are characterized by inadequate legal protections and little access to social services. Regional and international bodies have a responsibility to increase protections for migrant workers and to establish and enforce international labor standards that prevent a race to the bottom.